“Innocent until Proven Guilty?” Not According To Florida Board of Executive Clemency

June 23, 2014
By

Update June 24, 2014 @11:16AM ET

In a follow-up call to the Office of Executive Clemency Investigations Division this morning, Debbie Sue was asked if she could confirm Kristen from the US Probation Office for the District of CT had made contact with their office yesterday. Debbie Sue responded “hold on just a minute,” and then returned to the line to say “Mr. Sinclair, I can confirm that Mr. Wilson and the supervisor has the file and is reviewing it and will contact you as soon as possible.” I then asked, “I am assuming when you say supervisor you are referring to Mr. Hebert?” to which she replied “um, Mr. Sanchez.”

In having this situation come to my attention I believe it is worthy of further investigation to determine how many other applications for the restoration of civil rights have been denied based on completely erroneous information and am therefore preparing a Freedom of Information Act request along with a request under Florida’s Sunshine Law for the records of all denied applications for restoration of civil rights over the last Ten (10) years.

Original story begins here

Florida Executive Clemency Board: Attorney General Pam Bondi, Commissioner of Agriculture & Consumer Services  Adam H. Putnam, Governor Rick Scott, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater.

Florida Executive Clemency Board: Attorney General Pam Bondi, Commissioner of Agriculture & Consumer Services
Adam H. Putnam, Governor Rick Scott, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater.

There has been a lot of talk and debate over the past six years on voting rights and convicted felons having their right to vote restored after they have completed serving the sentence imposed for their crime. In the State of Colorado ones civil rights are restored upon the completion of the sentence imposed and any parole that may come with said sentence. Arizona allows the restoration of ones civil rights upon an “absolute discharge” from imprisonment. Florida at one time ( as described in more detail below) automatically processed an application for the restoration of ones civil rights upon completion of a sentence based on an application sent to the Florida Office of Executive Clemency by the Florida Department of Corrections. Today I was informed by Ryan (per Ryan no last names or employee ID numbers are given out) of the Florida Office of Executive Clemency that my application for the restoration of my civil rights and specifically my right to vote filed on October 5, 2009 was denied and “you will not be eligible for restoration until the year 2019.”

In 2004 the Florida Department of Corrections filed an application with the Florida Office of Executive Clemency asking that my civil rights be restored. The application was filed in 2004 instead of 1987 because the Florida Department of Corrections failed to file paperwork within their own department and the 11th Judicial Circuit Court showing that the matter had in fact been discharged and I was notified in 2004 that I was still listed in Florida as having been an “absconder” when in fact I was not. The necessary documentation was filed with the 11th Judicial Circuit Court in Miami in 2004 and the case and probation issued in the case was correctly noted as having been terminated. The application submitted in 2004 was denied based on the 2001 Colorado only warrant which was completely dismissed just this past week, June 9, 2014. In 2009 I filed for restoration of my civil rights because I not only wanted to vote in the 2010 mid-terms in Florida, I had in fact wanted to run for the US House of Representatives in what was then Florida’s 24th Congressional District. I had been told in early 2010 that the application would in fact be processed and granted by the Office of Executive Clemency.

In March 2013 I received the below letter from the Office of Executive Clemency telling me that they were “investigating” my application. (NOTE: My legal name at the time of the Florida conviction was La-Rye Avila and all Clemency applications are processed under the conviction name according to Ryan, but you will note the June 17, 2014 letter is addressed to me under my legal birth name. I have long since legally changed my name back to my given birth name). Click on the image to open in its full size.

Clemency 3513 letter

March 15, 2013 letter from Florida Office of Executive Clemency

Today I received another letter which was mailed to my old address and this time addressed to me under my legal birth name Lawrence Sinclair informing me that the rules were changed on March 9, 2011 (almost two (2) full years after the application was submitted) and that under the “new” rules I am not eligible to apply for restoration of my civil rights until April 3, 2019. Click on below image to open in its full size

June 17, 2014 letter from Florida Office of Executive Clemency

June 17, 2014 letter from Florida Office of Executive Clemency

Upon contacting the Office of Executive Clemency, Ryan informed me that based on the Investigations Division notes, “you were released from a federal felony probation sentence on October 5, 2012 out of New Haven, CT and you would not be eligible to apply for restoration until at least seven (7) years from the completion of that sentence.” When I informed Ryan that not only is that information not correct, I informed him I have never in my lifetime ever been arrested, much less convicted and sentenced in any Federal Court and I had only been in the State of CT twice in my entire life and both of those times were quick visits to Stamford. Ryan however wanted to tell me that it was my responsibility to prove the Office of Executive Clemency had incorrect information even before even telling me what jurisdiction they were claiming I was supposedly convicted and sentenced in.

Ryan then upon trying to tell me that New Haven, CT had confirmed the information regarding the probation, he said that “a warrant out of Colorado was just removed in March 2014 and under the new rules you still would not be eligible until 2019 or five (5) years after the removal of the Colorado warrant.” I asked Ryan if he was telling me the State of Florida was in fact imposing a punishment against me for simply having been accused of something that under both the US and Florida constitution I was innocent of until proven guilty in a court of law?” Ryan responded, “it’s not punishment, the new rules say you cannot be arrested regardless of whether you are ever found guilty of anything.” I in my simple minded way, see that as the State of Florida imposing a punishment upon me and anyone else in my situation for merely being accuse of something especially when the charges are dismissed outright by the State without ever having entered a formal plea of any kind in the court. Below are the rules enacted under Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) on March 9, 2011: (Click on “Amended Rules… and it will take you to the PDF file released by Gov Rick Scotts Office)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                CONTACT: AMY

GRAHAM

MARCH 9, 2011

850-488-5394

Governor Scott and Florida Cabinet Discuss

Amended Rules of Executive Clemency

Tallahassee, Fla. – Governor Rick Scott today convened a special meeting of the Florida Board of Executive Clemency to discuss and vote on amending the rules of clemency for ex-offenders.

Governor Scott’s Remarks Prepared for Delivery

March 9, 2011

We have Amended Rules of Executive Clemency for our consideration.

The proposed changes are intended to emphasize public safety and ensure that all applicants desire clemency, deserve clemency, and demonstrate

they are unlikely to reoffend.

For Pardons, Firearm Authority, and Commutations:

Waiver of the 10-year waiting period for pardon applications and the 8- year waiting period for firearm authority applications will no longer be allowed.

In other words, felons will not be permitted to apply for a pardon or firearm rights until they have demonstrated their commitment to abide by the law for the time-period set forth in the rules.

Applicants for Commutation of Sentence will now submit a “Request for Review” instead of a “Request for Waiver,” and must complete at least one-third of their sentence or, if serving a minimum mandatory sentence, one-half of their sentence, before being eligible to apply.

For Restoration of Civil Rights:

Felons seeking restoration of rights will also be required to demonstrate that they desire and deserve clemency by applying only after they have shown they are willing to abide by the law.

  • First, anyone seeking restoration of civil rights must submit an application.
  • Second, The Clemency Board will review each application individually before deciding whether to grant restoration of civil rights. Restoration of civil rights will not be granted “automatically” for any offenses.
  • Third, there will be waiting periods before felons are eligible to apply.

There will be two categories of applicants: “With a Hearing” and “Without a Hearing.”

  • Applicants whose crimes are serious enough to require them to attend a hearing will be eligible to apply after having no new felony convictions for a period of seven years after completion of their sentences.
  • Applicants whose crimes do not require them to attend a hearing will be eligible to apply after they have been crime- and arrest-free for a period of five years after completion of their sentences.

If the Board denies restoration of civil rights “Without a Hearing,” applicants may choose to pursue their rights “With a Hearing.”

Additionally, a number of crimes will be added to the existing list of disqualifying offenses that make an applicant ineligible to receive restoration of civil rights “Without a Hearing.” For example, additional sexual crimes – including lewdness and indecent exposure – as well as all drug trafficking and all first- and second-degree drug offenses will disqualify an applicant from restoration of civil rights “Without a Hearing.”

Other examples include possession of a firearm by a felon, RICO, and public corruption crimes. It stands to reason that individuals who have committed serious violence or sexual offenses; abused the privilege of holding public office; endangered society with poisonous drugs; or carried a firearm after they have been convicted should be required to attend a hearing and explain why their rights should be restored.

The Restoration of Civil Rights can be a significant part of the rehabilitation of criminal offenders and can assist them in reentry into society. It is important that this form of clemency be granted in a deliberate, thoughtful manner that prioritizes public safety and creates incentives to avoid criminal activity.

So despite filing two years before the rules were changed, changed to where the State of Florida and individuals in the Office of Executive Clemency in fact can impose punishment upon a citizen of the State of Florida not based on an actual wrong doing but merely the accusation of one; and where citizens are denied the restoration of civil rights based not on facts,  but instead based on unchecked inaccurate information which for many goes unchecked because the Office of Executive Clemency does not specify in the denial letter what information was relied upon in their decision making, I and I am sure many others are continuously being punished by the State for something we have long since completed the punishment imposed by the Court. This brings with it questions not just for me personally, but for the unknown numbers of individuals who had their application for restoration of their civil rights denied based on inaccurate information that had nothing to do with them at all? Ryan was kind enough to inform me that though I filed my application in 2009 before the 2011 rule changes, no application was grandfathered under the rules in effect at the time they application was filed and all were processed under the new rules as enacted in March 2011.

Upon speaking with Debbie Sue in the Investigations office of the Office of Executive Clemency I was told she would have to get the investigator (who in this particular case was Chad Wilson) to pull the file and get in touch with me. Debbie Sue went on to say “if the information is incorrect, we can correct it,” which begs this question: how many other people has this office denied based on inaccurate information? What remedy do they have in this? I even went one step further, after Debbie Sue told me the alleged federal probation case was out of New Haven, CT I contacted the United States Probation office for the District of CT to inquire as to how I was listed as having been on probation with them up to October 5, 2012? They were much nicer and are just as dumbfounded as I in this matter. Kristen with the US Probation Office in Hartford, CT not only returned my call, she has spent hours today just trying to pull my name up in their system and has been unable to do it. When she asked if the Office of Executive Clemency had given me a case or docket number for the probation they are alleging I had to laugh and tell her Florida Office of Executive Clemency didn’t even give me the reason for their decision until I called insisting on being provided with the grounds they claim made me ineligible for restoration until at least 2019.

Florida is telling Citizens who have long served their complete sentences and who have met the requirements for restoring their civil right to vote they cannot, but yet non-citizens of the United States somehow have the civil right to vote? Is the State of Florida really going to impose a punishment on a citizen based on a mere accusation even though the Florida and US Constitution clearly state one is innocent until proven guilty? This being an election year and the Governor’s office being up for grabs in Florida I guess this is as good a time as any to put these questions to Gov. Scott as well as anyone opposing him this November.

Is the State of Florida engaging in the imposing of punitive measures on it’s citizens in violation of due process of law? Is the use of a mere accusation as grounds for denying the restoration of ones civil rights a violation of the Constitution both the US and Florida Constitution? How many citizens has the Florida Office of Executive Clemency denied restoration of their civil rights based on incorrect and inaccurate information? These questions need to be answered and I will not stop until I have answer straight from the top of Florida’s Chief Executive Rick Scott. Gov Rick Scott is a member of the Florida Executive Clemency Board and by such the Gov. has by his actions and the actions of the Clemency Board imposed punishment on a citizen without any due process of law and despite the matter which was used to deny the application had been completely dismissed.

 

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One Response to “Innocent until Proven Guilty?” Not According To Florida Board of Executive Clemency

  1. […] original report “Innocent until Proven Guilty?,” Not According to Florida Board of Executive Clemency  raised questions about the State of Florida in effect imposing punitive measures against its […]

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